PALESTINIANS SIT in a damaged house as they watch a parade celebrating Hamas’s ‘victory’ over Israel, in the Shejaia neighborhood, Gaza.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Israeli air force's retaliatory strikes against the Gaza Strip before dawn on Saturday roused local Palestinians who for the first time since the end of Operation Protective Edge woke up with a feeling of dread that another round of fighting was imminent.
Two IAF sorties targeted Hamas sites just east of Khan Yunis in the southern part of the Gaza Strip early Saturday. The strikes, combined with recent statements by the Islamist group's leadership regarding the need to "re-establish deterrence," raised questions in the minds of residents regarding the viability of the cease-fire.
The IAF strikes were precipitated by a Palestinian mortar that was launched from Gaza and landed in an open area in the Eshkol regional council. None of the Palestinian factions have yet to claim credit for the mortar attack, but that has not stopped Israel from assigning blame to Hamas, which is the de factor majordomo of the coastal enclave.
Hani al-Basus, a Palestinian political commentator, told the Ma'an news agency that "the Israeli attack came solely as a response [to the mortar attack] and there is no way that it will lead to a deterioration."
"Israel wanted to send a message to the Palestinian factions, particularly to Hamas, that any operation on its borders would cost it dearly," he said. "Israel cannot enter a renewed conflict because it is about to hold an election. The current political and security situation cannot countenance an escalation in fighting from anyone, both on the Israeli side and on the part of the Palestinian factions."
Another observer, Akram Atallah, believers that the Israeli escalation is part and parcel of "Israel's election campaign."
"Israel doesn't want the Palestinian factions to interrupt the election campaign," he said.
Atallah said he was concerned that "the situation could worsen even further as we head toward elections."
"Israel is also concerned about the deteriorating [economic and humanitarian] situation in Gaza, which could lead to a renewal of fighting," he said.
Hamas nonetheless released an official statement in which it "warned the Israeli occupation from repeating its stupidity in Gaza."
According to the communique, which was issued on Saturday morning, "the occupation's attack represents a dangerous escalation in light of the lull in fighting between the resistance and the Israeli occupation."
The Islamist group called on the international community "to take responsibility for the Israeli aggression toward the Palestinians."
Meanwhile, a senior Hamas official based in Lebanon explained why the organization was resuming its alliance with Iran.
"The visit of a Hamas delegation to Iran after a period of chilly relations came after most of the Arab countries didn't respond favorably to its call to stand alongside the Palestinian people," said Ali Barakeh.
Barakeh said that the delegation's trip to Iran "clinched Iranian support for the Palestinian resistance."
The delegation he referred to visited Tehran earlier this month. During the visit, both sides reached understandings according to which Iran would continue to arm and finance the Palestinian factions in Gaza. Barakeh told a Turkish news agency that "a new page was opened in the relations between Iran and Hamas."
Last week, the spokesman for the Hamas military wing, Abu Obeida, thanked Iran in his speech marking the 27th anniversary of the organization's founding.